Our Favorite Flavors: Tasty Tools to Build your Site
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Choosing the right tools for you is a bit like picking out flavors in an ice cream shop. There are so many choices! How do you know what’s best? Hearing it from someone who has sampled much of what’s out there gives you a leg up. Through our endless taste-testing as a business, we have come up with a custom mix that works for us, and we hope it does for you too!
Scoop Up Your Domain
Before you get started, you want to secure that perfect domain name. There’s a lot of places out there where you can buy your domain names. To throw a bit of jargon at you, these are called domain registrars, and if you Google it, you will find an abundance of companies out there all jumping to sell you your domain.
Namecheap is simple and easy to use. We use it for all our clients and recommend it to all our friends!
Why it’s our fav.
- Great support. We love their support team. They are quick to respond, and there are no long waits. We always get what we need when we reach out.
- Great prices. Namecheap is, as you might expect from the name, cheap! You can get some great deals on your domain here.
- Consistent pricing. You get the same price year after year. Other domain registrars may offer you a discount on your initial purchase, but they skyrocket after that discount expires.
- Free privacy. Namecheap offers free domain privacy with each domain name. This protects your personal data and will keep your info out of the public eye.
- Easy integration with hosting. The DNS settings are easy to understand, and you can find well-documented instructions that walk you through the set up with your hosting provider.
Pick Your Platform
The number of platforms out there seems to keep growing and growing, doesn’t it? Here’s a bit about our favorite and why we think you’ll love it too!
WordPress (WP) all the way, baby! This website platform just leaves us so satisfied. First things first, WordPress.org is the way to go. Don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole of WordPress.com—we warned you! WordPress.com is limited in how you can use it. You can’t change the page structure or install third-party themes or plugins. When you choose WordPress.com you are giving up flexibility and scalability. WordPress.org is your friend!
Why it’s our fav.
- Fully scalable. As you grow, the platform grows with you. Need a shop? WP has your back. Want a membership? Yep, it can do that too. There isn’t much that this platform can’t handle.
- Own your stuff. You get full control and own all your content. Don’t ever let that go. It’s yours!
- Community support and development. There are people out there in the world that can help. If something doesn’t already exist for WP, there is probably a developer out there who can help you figure out how to make it happen. The community surrounding WP is welcoming and warm—WP meetups are a great place to find others who use the platform and even local developers who can help take your site to the next level.
- Google loves it. WP is SEO friendly right out of the box. You can also enhance your SEO and optimize your content with plugins like Yoast or SEOPress.
There are situations where WordPress might not be the best solution for you—yes we said it, you heard us right. If you are focused on e-commerce only, and that’s your jam, Shopify might work better for you. If you have a fear of tech—it happens, and that’s ok—or just want a simpler solution to get the ball rolling, Showit might be a fit for you. While it’s limited in its capabilities, it’s built on WP, so when you’re ready to scale, you can easily make the jump to a self-hosted WP site.
Find Your Site a Home
Your site has to live somewhere! When using WordPress you have to choose your own hosting. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered—here are some of our favorite places for your site to live and thrive.
Kinsta is our top pick for hosting. This managed hosting solution has never let us down! Whoa, we used a website-y term there, managed hosting. All that means is your site is managed by the hosting company; they help you take care of issues that may come up. Managed hosting is customized, it’s like getting a dress tailored to fit you perfectly, whereas shared hosting is buying a dress straight from the rack—it might do in a pinch, but it’s not crafted for your specific needs.
Why it’s our fav.
- Focused support. Even though managed hosting can be more expensive, you get support that’s specific to your platform—we hope you chose WordPress! Kinsta’s support team is made up of WP developers, so you won’t hear “sorry it’s something on your WordPress site” like you might hear from a shared host.
- Staging. This is where you can create and edit your site in a safe, private area, where prying eyes can’t see. You can work out all your challenges and tweak to your heart’s content before pushing that “go live” button.
- Better optimization. Kinsta is fine-tuned to work with WordPress—your site runs at the top of it’s game. You get faster load times, better security, and more uptime for your site.
- Free SSL. With Kinsta’s Let’s Encrypt integration you get Free SSL certificates for your WordPress sites. You don’t even have to worry about renewing them, it’s all automated! Today SSL is not an option. You should absolutely have it on your site, and Google will flag you if you don’t. SSL helps you get better search engine ranking, builds trust, protects data, and gives you that nifty green lock next to your domain name that tells everyone your site is secure.
Flywheel and WPEngine are close seconds to Kinsta that also offer managed hosting and staging. These are both fantastic solutions for hosting; our heart just belongs to Kinsta!
Build a Great Foundation
Once you have your platform and home for your site, the foundation you set and how you build from there is essential. Not all website builders are created equal.
Beaver Builder is a page builder with an excellent interface. It’s been our go-to for the past three years. We started with the Genesis Child Themes and loved the customization and control we achieved with Beaver Builder. Your only limit is your imagination!
Why it’s our fav.
- You don’t have to be a developer. Beaver Builder is a drag and drop solution that can be used by both the novice and the expert.
- But, developers love it too. You don’t have to code the basic foundation but can still customize with code, saving time and resources.
- Changes are easy. Once the site is complete, it’s easy to make changes behind the scenes or add content. The interface is so natural to follow that you catch on quickly!
- Saves time and money. Beaver Builder is an affordable solution that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and many website developers include this in the cost of building your site—we do!
From our perspective, Elementor is a little less intuitive but might be better for all you right-brained folks out there. Beaver Builder plays off of logic, whereas Elementor is a bit more on the creative side. As with any tool, we suggest starting with the lite version to see which you feel more comfortable with—try it out, take it for a test drive!
Create Community + Share Knowledge
You might be at a point in your business where you’re ready to start building out a membership or course. Your head might start to hurt from all the options out there. Take a deep breath and read on to hear what we think bubbles to the top!
We use AccessAlly ourselves to deliver all our templates, courses, and coming soon, our membership. If you’re looking for an outstanding platform for passive or recurring income, look no further!
Why it’s our fav.
- You get everything you need. You don’t need a variety of integrations to make it do the basic things you need. Everything is already there for you to use. You also don’t have to pay for any add-ons!
- Customizable. You aren’t limited here, there’s so many opportunities to make it your own. You can make it look and feel and work the way that works best for you and your business.
- User friendly. AccessAlly is simple and straightforward.
There are other options out there for you if you’re not feeling AccessAlly. Kajabi is a little more limiting, and your price scales up as your membership scales up, but it provides you a great platform for courses or membership. If you’re looking for a quick solution that makes bulk uploading of content easy, Thinkific may make sense. While it can be a little more cookie-cutter, it’s great if you’re in a time-crunch.
You’ve got this fantastic new site up and running! Woo Hoo! But now what? You want to create and maintain relationships with the people who visit your site. A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Email Management System (EMS) will help you achieve those goals.
Why it’s our fav.
- Get visitor info easily and use it. With ActiveCampaign, you can set up forms on your site to capture visitor information and even get subscribers for your email list. Their information goes directly into the tool so you can manage the relationship from there.
- Set up workflows. You can set up workflows for almost anything—from an opt-in with follow-up emails, to a free-trial again with a follow-up series, or even a cross-sell automation for e-commerce sites.
- Site tracking. This is a fancy way of saying, “see what your visitors did and when.” All you need to do is place a snippet of code on the backend of your website.
- All in one. With ActiveCampaign, there’s no need for a separate email builder, it’s built into your tool, and you can create and send emails all in the same place. It is the most robust tool at an affordable price!
While ActiveCampaign is wonderful, if you’re looking for everything it has to offer plus some e-commerce and affiliate options, you’ll need something like Ontraport. We use Ontraport and adore it, but it comes with a much higher price tag. If you’re not ready for that significant of an investment, we suggest starting with something like ActiveCampaign and growing into Ontraport, if you need those extra features.
Wow! That was a lot of information we just threw at you— what a mouthful. That’s why we made this handy checklist for you to make sure you hit all the areas you need when choosing your website tools. Grab the checklist below and create your own custom mix of flavors that works for you.